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All too often, snoring is regarded as a nuisance rather than a real health (/basics/health) problem. People who snore—and the partners who must listen to their snoring at night—usually have no problem acknowledging that snoring is disruptive and uncomfortable. But most don’t look for actual treatment for their snoring, particularly if it is not accompanied by obstructive sleep apnea (/conditions/sleep apnea), a serious sleep disorder (/basics/insomnia) that is characterized by interruptions to breathing during sleep (/basics/sleep).

Snoring—with or without sleep apnea—is a very real health concern. Snoring is a sign of disrupted sleep, which can lead to many health problems. And new research (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/255435.php) suggests that snoring itself may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital investigated (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/255459.php) the possible effects of snoring on the cardiovascular system. They found that snoring is associated with a thickening of the inner walls of the carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are responsible for carrying blood to the brain (/basics/neuroscience). This thickening of the arterial wall is an early sign of carotid artery disease (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004669/), a narrowing or blocking of the arteries that increases the risk of stroke. Researchers also found that people who snore were more likely to suffer from this arterial thickening than others with more widely known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including smokers, people who are overweight, and those with high blood pressure and high Researchers examined data from 913 patients who sought treatment at Henry Ford Hospital’s sleep clinic. All the participants were between the ages of 1850, and none of them had obstructive sleep apnea. Of this group, 54 men and women completed a survey about their snoring histories. They also received ultrasounds to measure the thickness of the intimamedia (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1012592) of the carotid artery wall. Intima Media thickness is a measurement of the two innermost layers of the carotid artery wall. Thickening of the intima media layers is considered a sign of elevated risk for cardiovascular disease.

People who snored had greater levels of intima media thickness than those who did not snore, according to the study results. Snoring was alone among risk factors that associated with this abnormality to the carotid arteries. Researchers found no increase in intima media thickness among people with other standard risk factors for cardiovascular risk factors, including obesity (/conditions/obesity), smoking (/basics/smoking), diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.